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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Spice Up Your Outdoor Space

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

Summer is here! (In case you failed to notice those 90° days we had recently.) The kids will be out of school soon and summer party mode will be in full swing. If the pandemic made us appreciate one thing, it is the power of having a great outdoor entertainment space. Read on for four ideas to spice up your outdoor space this summer!

The Almighty Fire Pit

One idea that immediately springs to mind is the fire pit. That social hub of late night confessions, sticky s’mores and leave-your-jacket-in-the-garage fun livens up any space.

If you have a larger backyard space and you are a fire enthusiast, adding a built-in fire pit can be a great way to up your entertainment game. A quick browse of the internet provides some awesome inspiration – from slate patio built-ins to cool pavers, there is a lot here to get excited about.

There are portable options, too! For Christmas, my parents bought us a solo stove. We’d been eyeing up the one our neighbors have (more on the neighbor envy below!). We didn’t want a permanent fire pit because our yard is fairly small, plus the fact that we just wouldn’t use it that often. The solo stoves are portable, can be stashed away when not in use, and they put off limited smoke.

Now, the pièce de résistance, if you buy the extra stand for the bottom, you can use it on your wood or Trex deck. We have tried it, and indeed, it did not damage the Trex (BUT there are still embers and we have some burns in our deck furniture cushions so we need to do some rethinking there).

Our neighbors built a standalone platform in their backyard for the solo stove, which eliminates the concern of damage to their main deck. They created a cohesive and inviting space by constructing it out of the same Trex materials as their main deck. They even put lighting around the base! (Great job, Mr. Jeff!) Check out the picture below.

We have some serious neighbor envy on this slick setup!

When we get rid of my daughter’s playscape, I know what I’ll be building in the empty space!

If you want a really clean look minus the smoke and effort to build up a traditional fire, there are some beautiful options for propane fire tables. You can get standalone options or ones built into a dining table. Both options throw off ambiance the moment you flip them on.

Use Textiles to Make Your Space Inviting

I have to admit, whenever I see curtains or fabric sun shades in outdoor spaces, I immediately associate the space with cabanas in a Caribbean resort, i.e. I go to a happy place featuring caipirinha cocktails and cool salt breezes.

Consider integrating some textiles, such as curtains or a light throw blanket, to make your space feel luxurious. We have some family friends who have the hands-down best backyard I have ever seen. They have a beautiful pergola over their BBQ / dining area that has curtains around the edge. When the sun gets intense, they pull the curtains to provide some relief from the heat. It feels so fancy!

Pergola with Curtains
Using textiles in your outdoor space makes your space feel inviting.

I have another friend who puts up a fabric sun shade over her patio area. I just love hanging out in her backyard oasis in the summer. It doesn’t take up the space an umbrella would, and we avoid the scenario of four women trying to huddle under one umbrella. With it being tied off between her house and garage, it gives the appearance of semi-permanence that you can’t get with a portable sun umbrella. I don’t have a picture of her setup, but this one is similar.

Furniture Upgrade

Patio furniture has come a long way from what I remember as a kid. Those glass top tables with the bouncy chairs and center umbrella were the height of elegance in the summer.

There are so many options for great outdoor furniture these days. You can get wood tables or metal tables, sectional sofas in a variety of colors or fire pit tables in tons of styles. Upgrading your furniture is undoubtedly a great way to invite your friends (and yourself!) to enjoy your space.

For a more sustainable option of new-to-you outdoor furniture, check your local Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or Nextdoor community for gently used outdoor furniture! Most furniture ends its life in landfills, so purchasing from someone else is a great way to extend its life and save some cash.

Outdoor table and chairs
There are so many options for great outdoor furniture these days.

We upgraded our deck furniture in 2020, and it greatly increased our desire to spend time outside. If you are like me and you continuously rearrange your furniture, a sectional might be for you. I rearrange our furniture probably twice a summer to what I deem to be the new “optimal” layout.

To make the space extra welcoming, throw down a cool rug to give it a true outdoor living feel. You can arrange rugs and furniture to separate your spaces, such as lounging versus dining versus grilling.

Mood Lighting

One place our backyard is definitely lacking is lighting. (I don’t count our Ring camera turning its vicious motion-activated light on us at random.) If you’re going to enjoy your backyard space after dark, lighting is going to make your space feel intentional and welcoming. There are all sorts of options from built-in lighting for your patio or deck to other less permanent options.

When you are looking for lighting, be sure to keep your power source in mind. Are you going to plug the lights into an outlet, use batteries or solar power? Or maybe you are going with the oh-so-fun tiki torches or the summer staple of citronella candles (two for one: lighting AND bug repellent!).

Edison bulbs give a romantic feel to an outdoor space.

If you don’t have a built-in option for lighting, you can use poles to string Edison bulbs across your space. This option always reminds me of The Belt in Detroit, and imparts a little romance to the space. If you go this route, make sure your poles are sturdy because if the poles won’t support the weight of the lights, you are not going to be a happy camper! (Thanks for the tip, S!)

If you don’t want to commit to the effort of those options above, just grab yourself an outdoor floor lamp! All the ambiance without the commitment.

In conclusion, whatever updates you do, I hope you have a fabulous summer. I love summer – the heat, the water activities, the socialization with friends as everyone emerges from their winter hibernation is its own special combination.

As always, I’m here to help you with all your home ownership questions!

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